This paper reviews existing research on labels and food safety standards (both private and public) and their effects on food and agricultural trade. It argues that perceptions and empirical evidence around the impacts of standards have shifted from principally negative to more mixed results. According to the literature standards may thus increase or have no effect on trade. Those variations can be explained in part by the paradigm, methods, scopes, etc undeprinning the studies, with for example the development literature generally showing a positive connection between standards and economic growth, and the global value chain literature on the other hand questioning the significance of the effects of trade in the short term.


Several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) suggest that improving well-being is achievable through trade. The free flow of goods and services internationally, which encourages efficient production and expansion of consumption, may support SDGs concerning inclusive and sustainable economic growth and sustainable consumption and production patterns. However, trade restrictions such as nontariff barriers (NTBs) may stymie potential gains from trade, which supports the SDGs. This chapter explores the trade effects of different NTBs, especially labeling and food safety regulations in food and agriculture. The upshot of this chapter is that trade can enhance economic growth and development. Standards such as labels and food safety regulations may contribute to or hamper this growth, which affects the capacity to attain the relevant SDGs. Thus, future analysis must provide careful assessments of industries, proposed standards, multiple outcomes, and power relationships to identify the effects of standards on trade and development.

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Publication type:
  • Institutional publication
Other authors:
  • Norbert Wilson